The Learning Academy Trust is designed to support and challenge individual schools as well as groups of schools wanting to work closely together. One such group of schools – the Cornerstone Schools – share the same vision and values as other TLAT schools but have agreed to collaborate and organise their school cornerstones that underpin their approach to education.
The most successful schools have a clear and evidence-based approach to learning. They understand how children – and children with individual needs – learn best. This understanding about how children learn is used in the organisation of the curriculum and in the approach to planning learning experiences. It is regularly discussed and tested in the different contexts of school life and updated by the latest and best research.
All schools know of the importance of children developing the core skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing and mathematics. These skills are essential for pupils and students to get the most out of school life and to successfully meet the growing demands of school, further education, training, work and of course life itself.
There is another group of skills, less easily testable, that also matters enormously to how children develop as young people and make a significant contribution. Some of these skills include:
Independent learning – the ability to concentrate and apply themselves without reliance on others
Collaborative learning – the ability to work as part of a team to achieve an outcome that would have been much harder for any of the individuals to achieve by themselves
Imagination – the ability to think beyond the obvious in order to create new ideas
Curiosity – the ability to be interested and to ask questions and to find out through thought and activity
Creativity – the ability to make new things
Responsibility – the ability to make informed choices and understand the likely consequences of these choices
Resilience – the ability to persevere when problems are encountered
Reflectiveness – the ability to think about their own learning and what they may need to do to improve
Resourcefulness – the ability to use whatever is at hand to solve a problem
Empathy – the ability to see and feel things as others see and feel them
Because we value these skills, and others like them, our aim is to find engaging and imaginative ways that we can provide opportunities for children to develop them and also opportunities for staff to measure how well they are doing.
Cornerstone schools have been particularly inspired by the work of Professor Guy Claxton on Learning Habits and Building Learning Power. Claxton’s research in this country and internationally has led to schools around the globe adopting, adapting and developing his strategies to fully engage young people in their learning.
Most schools are now experienced and effective at self-evaluation – at determining what aspects of curriculum provision and pupil achievement are strengths and which should be priorities for school improvement.
A greater challenge for school leaders is to keep updated on the latest and best research on what works in schools. A major commitment to Cornerstone schools, therefore, is that the Core School Improvement Team will:
Capture and distil the latest research on all aspects of pupil learning, staff development and school improvement
Engage in professional dialogue with school staff and school leaders about how best to apply this research in the context of individual schools
Provide training both within schools and by means of workshops and conferences
In addition, being a Cornerstone school means that you are excited about the potential for both pupils and staff to engage in enquiry:
There is excellent research on the power of encouraging pupils to generate their own enquiry ideas and to work collaboratively to pursue them
There are also many opportunities for staff to engage in school-based research projects and to have these accredited at different levels, including up to Masters Level
Cornerstone leads will offer all the support, encouragement and expertise to enable schools to put enquiry at the heart of their work
Cornwall has a rich and diverse range of communities that schools serve and draw inspiration from. We have small village schools and large town schools, we have coastal communities, moorland communities and farming communities, and many more besides.
But despite this diversity there are some important ingredients at the heart of every school that has a positive and sustaining relationship with its wider community. Our aim as Cornerstone schools is to:
Capture these common ingredients
Develop an understanding of why they are important and how we can further develop them
Evaluate our schools in terms of what they provide for the community as well as what they draw from the community
Find every opportunity for pupils and staff to learn about their community and to engage in projects to improve community life
Develop an effective parental-engagement strategy*
Cornerstone schools are particularly inspired by the work of Debra Green OBE and the Redeeming Our Schools (ROC) initiative – a charity aiming to bring about community transformation by creating partnerships and volunteer-led projects. We are delighted that Debra has agreed to be a Member of TLAT.
We know from well evidenced research – and from common sense – that parents have an enormous impact on the development of their children. What we also know is that this impact changes as children get older – whereas the family is hugely influential when children first enter school and throughout the primary years, when children progress to their secondary school it is the school and their peers that begins to have more influence. What this means, as primary school leaders, is that if we don’t have an effective parental engagement strategy we don’t have an effective school improvement strategy. It is vital that we invest energy and resource into effective partnerships with parents and with organisations that support parents and families. That is our commitment.
In developing the Cornerstone Model we felt it was important to allow schools to contribute their own interest or specialism – something that they have already developed as a school or have plans to develop in the future. These might include:
The performing arts
The outdoor environment and outdoor learning
The International Primary Curriculum
Physical Education and Sport
Enterprise and business
And so on…
If our schools can develop their own Cornerstone then this provides an exciting opportunity to share and learn from each other as part of our ongoing professional dialogue.
By the end of our first year of working together we aim to have captured the above cornerstones as a set of quality frameworks that help define our aims and aspirations and that provide a means of measuring our success and determining our priorities for school improvement.
If you would like to know more about any of the above then please contact Robin Cowen, Director of Primary at The Learning Academy Trust, at: firstname.lastname@example.org